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Jonathan Lipnicki Q&A: The Ex-Child Star Discusses Turning 21, Tom Cruise And ‘Jerry Maguire’

Erin Carlson
The Famous: Watching the Watched

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Amanda Nowak

The kid from "Jerry Maguire" is all grown up.

Last weekend, Jonathan Lipnicki celebrated his 21st birthday in Las Vegas (that's him alongside DJ Steve Aoki at Sin City's Surrender nightclub, where Lipnicki and his entourage of cousins downed shots and Grey Goose cocktails.)

Now out of his teen years, Lipnicki -- fully determined to make the transition into Ryan Gosling territory -- has lined up roles in two adult movies: "For the Love of Money," a crime drama about the Israeli mob ("I had to get my hair permed for it"), and "Tag," a dark thriller centered on a gang of homeless kids. (He plays "the brains of the operation.") He's also got a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in the popular Funny or Die spoof "Shark Pool," which is clicking like crazy on Youtube.

In light of these events, we thought it was a good time to check in with the birthday boy himself. He called us -- sober --  from his Los Angeles home:

Happy birthday! How does it feel to be 21?

You know, it's weird. It feels great. It's so funny because it's all this buildup, and I have a party and everything, and now I'm just back to the grind. Back to normal life. Pushing ahead.

Was it your ultimate goal to turn 21 in Vegas?

Me and my family talked and that's what my sister had done and she loved it, so I was like, "You know what? I'm gonna be the typical 21-year-old who goes to Vegas. I'm just gonna do it."

I read that you brought your entire family.

Just my mom and my aunt and my sister. And the rest were just my cousins -- my cousins are my friends. They're all around my age.

Uh, did your mom and sister partake in the drinking festivities?

They definitely had a really, really good time also. They're really fun. I heard some people were kind of joking, "Oh why would you bring your mom and your sister?" But my mom and my sister are rock stars. They go hard.

How hungover were you the next morning?

I'm not really gonna answer that one!

Could you get out of bed?

Yes! No, I was fine. Definitely -- I was up, I was alert and I was around. I was up at breakfast and everything the next morning.

There were no tigers hanging out?

There were NO tigers. I was a little surprised. I was a little worried. I woke up and I was hoping there was nothing crazy that went on. But there wasn't anything too ridiculous. ... I stayed out really late, I'm not gonna lie. I saw daylight. And then I slept for a very long time.

Your birthday cake was mispelled.

Yes it was. We were laughing so hard about that, me and my cousins. You know what we decided? We decided they did it -- they spelled it "o-n" -- because my birthday was so crazy, it was a "Jonathan marathon." It was a "Jona-thon."

You're acting in more dramas. Are you trying to get away from your comedy past?

I kind of pride myself on being really versatile. I haven't found my niche yet. I don't know exactly. I haven't had that one thing that's really put me anywhere. And I feel like because I look different, and I'm a completely different person essentially, that right now ... it's just about picking the right roles. I don't want to do anything that's gonna set me back. I'm really careful about what I do and really just want to kind of show the world what I can do.

Do people recognize you from "Jerry Maguire"?

The funny thing is they do. To me, if I saw me I wouldn't recognize me. I really wouldn't. I do hear it here and there from people and I think that's really funny.

How often do you get asked how much a human head weighs?

All the time. That's something I hear all the time. It's funny -- people ask all the time, "Do you hate that? Are you sick of that?" Honestly, no: I was lucky to be part of a movie that has a quote that lasted that long, and people still remember it like it was yesterday. And I feel blessed for that.

What do you remember from the movie? You were 5 years old!

Really, the people: Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise. They've had a really lasting impression on me. A really positive experience. I don't know if I would have been an actor if that experience wasn't so positive. ... Tom Cruise, I haven't really met anyone like him. He has this energy -- it's magical. He has this intense energy. He was just the coolest person to work with.

Who's your celebrity crush?

I met Hayden Panettiere a few times and she's gorgeous. ... She was super nice and that's a big thing for me because living out here in L.A., you meet a lot of girls who aren't. And she was just so down to earth and so nice the few times I met her that I mean it just makes you like someone a lot more.

How did you manage to avoid the "child-star trainwreck party boy" stereotype?

I never wanted to go anywhere that was 21 and above when I was underage because I never really wanted people to perceive me that way. I'm not like that. I'm just a normal suburban kid from South California trying to make it in this crazy career.

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